Escamotage d’une dame chez Robert-Houdin, 1896, 1m15s
Star Film Catalogue No. 70
Director: Georges Méliès
Stars: Jeanne d'Alcy (Woman) and Georges Georges Méliès (Magician)
Also Known As: Egy hölgy eltűnése
Production Co: Théâtre Robert-Houdin
Runtime: 1 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Featured in The Magic of Méliès (1997)
A magician enters a room and bows to an unseen audience. He opens the same door and invites a woman to join him. He unfolds a newspaper and lays it on the floor, placing a chair on top. He invites the woman to sit in the chair. He picks up a large tablecloth, unfolds it, and places it over the woman, carefully adjusting the bottom edge so she is completely covered. He then removes the cloth, to reveal the empty chair, which he picks up and spins around. He makes a gesture with his hands, and a skeleton appears in the chair. He tries to banish it, eventually covering it with the tablecloth. Removing the cloth, he reveals the woman, safe and sound. They bow to the audience, leave the stage, and return for another bow.
The full French title, Escamotage d’une dame chez Robert-Houdin, contains an explicit reference to the Théâtre Robert-Houdin, where Méliès had made his reputation as a stage magician. The film pays homage to Joseph Buatier de Kolta, one of Méliès inspirations, whose "vanishing lady" trick made him famous in the 1880s. However, Méliès does not attempt to reproduce the stage version, as the film was made after he had accidentally discovered the transformative potential of the jump-cut (as the legend goes, his camera jammed while filming a street scene, and when he played the resulting film, a cab was transformed into a hearse). The Vanishing Lady is believed to be the first time that Méliès made deliberately creative use of this discovery, and although the technique is obvious to us now, it must have been far more intriguing to contemporary audiences.
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